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  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The majority of plant species form partnerships with mycorrhizal fungi that exhibit diverse life histories, with evidence that this diversity drives ecosystem functioning in a variety of ecosystem types. Mycorrhizal fungi can improve host fitness under drought stress, but the traits that determine fungal fitness and function under water-limiting conditions are poorly understood. Mycorrhizal fungi might, in fact, have multiple strategies for enhancing fitness in dryland environments, relating to both chemical and morphological variation. These strategies likely vary in terms of how resource intensive they are, which would then be expected to influence outcomes of partnerships with plants in a variety of ecologically and economically important contexts.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) at Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD commencing in 2020. This studentship is part of an exciting program of research associated with a recently funded ARC Future Fellowship (‘Understanding mycorrhizal phenotypes using functional traits’). The successful candidate will work together with the project lead and collaborators, both within the HIE and external to the university. The team includes other early career researchers and several opportunities for career development.

This project will integrate a variety of ‘omics’ and trait-centric approaches in a way that shows promise for understanding partnerships in arid environments where water is limiting to both plants and to fungi. As such, the successful candidate will have opportunities to develop skills related to plant and fungal ecology, phenomics, molecular biology and physiology, and to learn these skills from experts in each of these fields.


 Domestic students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
 International students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum. Those with a strong track record will receive a fee waiver.
 All International students are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Care (OSHC) policy covering the duration of their studies in Australia. The HIE will provide funding for a single Overseas Student Health Cover policy.
 The project will also provide substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance.


We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to the project topic. The successful applicant should:
 hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian Bachelor Honours degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least a 25% research component, (iii) a Research Masters degree or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
 demonstrate strong academic performance in ecology, mycology, botany or related disciplines.
 be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
 possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
 be capable of conducting experiments in controlled environments and in the field, including remote environments.
 have good numerical skills and an interest in ecological statistics.
 International applicants must also meet English language proficiency


 Contact Associate professor Jeff Powell to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.
 Complete the application form via the link
 Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
 Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.
 All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
 Use the email subject line: Application_2020_025_HIE
 Submit to

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